Americans over 60 should get a second Covid vaccine booster, says White House official

Dr Ashish Jha said there was now ‘pretty compelling’ evidence that a second round of coronavirus booster vaccines would help protect older people

White House official says Americans over 60 should get a second Covid booster

A White House official has said Americans aged over 60 year old should get a second coronavirus booster shot as the highly contagious BA.2 variant spreads across the US.

Dr Ashish K Jha, who was appointed as president Joe Biden’s new Covid-19 response coordinator last month, told Fox News on Sunday there was "pretty compelling" new data to support a new round of boosters for older people.

It comes after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the so-called "stealth" subvariant of omicron, known as BA.2, is now the dominant coronavirus variant in the US.

Last week, the CDC extended its federal mask mandate for train and plain passengers for 15 days, lasting through at least 3 May, while the Department of Health and Human Services renewed the Covid-19 federal health emergency for at least three more months.

Dr Jha said: "The data out of Israel is pretty compelling for people over 60. When people got that second booster shot four months after their first booster, what we saw was a substantial reduction not just in infections but in deaths.

"So I think people over 60 should be getting it. Fifty to 59, it’s dependent on risk profile – talk to your doctor, it’s much more of a close call. But for people over 60, I think people should be getting that second booster."

Asked how worried Americans should be about BA.2, he said that although cases are rising, hospital admissions remain low, meaning federal officials must "pay close attention" to see how serious a threat the variant poses.

He defended the CDC’s decision to extend the federal travel mask mandate, saying: "Fifteen more days will give us a much better sense of whether these cases are leading to severe disease, hospitalisations, and deaths."

Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised second booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid vaccines for over-50s, saying it would strengthen their immunity against BA.2.

The FDA is still waiting for data from vaccine companies on whether vaccines for children under five are safe and effective. Dr Jha said he hoped the FDA would be able to make an assessment in the next two months.

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